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The Role of Isolation in As I Lay Dying

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William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, tells the story of a family that journeys cross-country with the intentions to find a proper resting place for their mother, Addie Bundren. After reading for only a short time, it becomes clear that two of her sons, Jewel and Darl, play a much larger role in the story than the other siblings. One could find many good points to support either character being labeled as the protagonist of the story, such as the various tensions that can clearly be seen between them. That being said, Darl is, without a doubt, the best possible choice. He is forced to overcome more obstacles, including alienation from his entire family, than any other character, and is truly a changed person by the end of the novel.

The word protagonist comes from the Greek word protagistes, meaning “One who plays the lead role.” The protagonist is forced to adapt to various conditions, and overcome many obstacles. A separate character or an omniscient narrator usually tells the protagonist’s story, but the protagonist himself can also tell it. While there is normally only one protagonist, there can more than one antagonist. The antagonist is the character that opposes the protagonist, and is usually responsible for the obstacles in his way. One common literary technique that is often used to rapidly change an audience’s viewpoint on a story is the use of a false protagonist. A false protagonist appears to the reader as the main character (the protagonist), but is suddenly removed from the picture completely. This removal is often accomplished by killing the false protagonist.

Darl Bundren is the second of the Bundren children. He narrates more sections in the book than any other character, and is a World War One veteran. He...

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...ity, and another likely reason why he was alienated from his family.

A major transition occurs in the story when Darl is able to accurately describe his mother’s death, despite the fact that he and Jewel were miles away when the event actually took place. This gives the other characters a clear understanding of just what Darl’s powers entail. As a result, his family alienates him completely, as they do not want to risk Darl being a constant intrusion on their personal lives. One could argue that this fear is the true reason why the family chose to commit Darl to a psychiatric asylum, rather than his act of arson in burning down the barn.

In conclusion, Jewel and Darl are two very different people that each could have been seen as the protagonist in the story. It is the vulnerability of Darl because of his telepathic abilities that makes him the best protagonist.
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